Most new parents know how it feels to be awake at odd hours with a crying infant. But when are such episodes the result of more than just the nuances of childhood? Due to the perception that it’s natural for infants to be “up and down” at all hours, some parents don’t seek help for what could be more than their child’s mercurial disposition: infant sleep disorders. In many cases, infants that don’t receive proper sleep can be readjusted to a healthier sleep pattern by a change in their daily routine, such as not napping late in the afternoon and not eating full meals before bedtime. But there are also cases where a child’s poor sleep is the result of a sleep disorder that requires the aid of a sleep clinic that treats childhood sleep disorders. Sleep disorders in infants can result from an immature nervous system, an underdeveloped respiratory system, as well as from environmental factors.
Which Infant Sleep Disorders Are the Most Serious?
In the minds of most doctors and parents, the most serious infant sleep disorder is the condition that leads to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The condition that causes SIDS is insufficient oxygen intake during sleep, which can be difficult to recognize before it’s too late. But there are some prenatal and postnatal risk factors for SIDS. Prenatal risk factors include: inadequate prenatal care, insufficient prenatal nutrition, smoking, parents’ use of illicit drugs, less than a one year interval between successive births, and teen age pregnancy. Postnatal risk factors include: low birth weight, failure to breastfeed, exposure to tobacco smoke, putting an infant to sleep on his or her stomach, and overheating, in which excessive clothing and bedcovers can play a role.
Despite an increasing volume of news about SIDS, there has been a sharp decline in the number of SIDS cases. Most sleep disorders suffered by infants are parasomnias, which are usually episodic and reflect an immaturity of the central nervous system. Parasomnias are more common in children as they are often outgrown. Common parasomnias include: Sleepwalking and Sleeptalking, but also Night Terrors. Seeking help for infant parasomnias can be crucial to maintaining an child’s overall health, as well as ensuring that his or her parents achieve meaningful rest.